“Blasphemy!” we predictably hear you cry. “Test cricket is the best cricket, it’s real cricket!” says your mate, frothing at the mouth, yet unaware just how wrong he is.
We’re here to explain why twenty-over cricket is the sport’s best form.
1. It has made 50-over cricket even better
One-day cricket can act as the meeting point between those enthusiastic about T20 and those who see Test cricket as the ultimate form. It’s hopefully, when at its best, a unifier.
Some interesting statistics show that while the average run rate in T20 cricket has actually been falling over recent years, the run rate in one day matches has been steadily increasing. Why might that be? T20 batsmen are taking the new skills they’ve learned and applying them in ODIs, clearly.
According to the Financial Times, batting sides have scored over 400 runs in a ODI 17 times since the advent of T20 cricket. We don’t think that’s a coincidence, and it proves beyond any doubt (we’re being slightly facetious here) that T20 is doing more to unify the world of cricket than the Test format.
2. It’s more accessible
Watching a Test match as a child often felt more like punishment than an enjoyable experience, and when there was the option of watching a fast-flowing, free-scoring sport on a different channel, the Dennis Bergkamps of this world naturally received more attention.
Kids don’t tend to get into cricket unless there’s a tradition or appreciation of it within their family – or they’re exposed to it at school. But as a child holding a bat, what you really want to do when someone bowls at you is hit it as far as you can. You’d previously have been told off for doing that, because it wasn’t a “proper shot”.
There’s undoubtedly merit in learning real shots, and they’re useful in all forms of the game. They’re skills that are central to cricket and we’re not for a second suggesting that they should be discouraged in schools – just that now there’s also merit in letting kids slog away as they please. If they prove talented at that, they’re more likely to want to learn how to bat properly, and possibly even appreciate it more when they learn to manipulate the ball.
3. It’s creating opportunities for traditionally smaller cricketing nations
Whether it’s Oman’s improbable rise – beating Hong Kong in the Asia Cup and Ireland in a group game in the T20 qualifiers – or Afghanistan, who’ve ascended all the way from the lowest rung of international cricket, or even Bangladesh, who narrowly lost against India in the recent Asia Cup final, countries that historically haven’t been great at cricket are finding something in T20 that works for them.
Long may it continue, because it makes everything that little bit more interesting for the spectators.
4. Some of the final overs are incredible
Losing wickets is less important in T20 cricket than in one day, and as such risks are taken much more frequently. As the overs draw to a close a win can often come out of nowhere, with batsmen capable of taking the game away with just a few boundaries.
5. And players can just catch fire
You’d never see that in Test cricket – 175 runs off 66 balls.
And what about this one? 158 for Brendan McCullum in the IPL’s first ever game.
6. England have won it
It’s always a bit embarrassing for England that despite hosting more than any other nation, and creating the sport itself, they’ve never won the Cricket World Cup.
They have, however, won the T20 World Cup, and to make the matter sweeter…
7. Australia have never won it
Having won the 50-over World Cup five times, the Aussies will be desperate to finally get their hands on the T20 edition. They find themselves in a tough group this year – with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and New Zealand – but would still be expected to escape the group given their big hitters and successful T20 league.
England fans will be hoping that nothing of the sort happens, though.